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Before Applying

Important documents and things to consider before you apply for program with Odyssey

Prepare for Your Program

Be sure to review all the important information provided here below you depart.

Arrival

One you arrive in the United State, don't forgot to take care of these important steps.

After Your Program

Don't forget to finish your program right and keep in touch.

before applying

Application Package

All participants need to submit to following documents in order to apply for their DS-2019. Downloadable versions of the documents can be found on this page. Please submit all documents and questions to Odyssey.

Before You Apply:

What to Expect. Coming to America as a J-1 intern or trainee is an amazing experience which can expand opportunities and allow you to learn what American culture and values are all about. At the same time, the J-1 program is very structured with strict rules and regulations that must be followed in order to remain in good standing. Please make sure you are comfortable with the following points before applying:

  1. The J-1 program is not going to be a holiday or excuse to travel. Your J-1 visa is tied to your host company which must maintain your training for the duration of your program. Failure to follow your host company rules and regulations can result in termination from your internship, which in turn can result in the termination of your program. Therefore, be prepared to train for up to 40 hours per week and follow host company rules. If you have any doubts about your relationship with your host company, please contact Odyssey for clarification.
  1. The J-1 program is not supposed to be "easy". You would not be participating in such a program if you were not looking for a challenge. You can expect to experience various degrees of culture shock, awkward situations, deadlines from your host company, and stresses that come with establishing a new life in a new country. However, these challenges also eventually turn into the rewards of the program in the form of new skills and a deep understanding of a new culture and way of life.
  2. There are fees required to participate in the program. For a complete outline of all fees and where they go, please click here.
  3. The J-1 program is not a stepping stone to another visa. All participants are expected to return to their home countries upon completion of their J-1 experience. J-1 visas are not meant to facilitate a change to another type of visa to extend your stay in the United States and Odyssey will not support any change of visa.
  4. The J-1 program is for students and young professionals who wish to experience American culture and interact with Americans on a daily basis through hands on training with professionals in their chosen field of study.

prepare for your program

Important Documents

Before you leave your country, please be sure you have packed the following documents which you will need at some point during your program. Please be sure to make photocopies of all documents in case you lose one.

  1. Passport: You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the end date listed on your DS-2019.
  2. DS-2019 Form: This document shows that you are authorized to train in the United States. It indicates that you have the sponsorship and support of Odyssey, and should be taken to the U.S. Embassy in your home country when you apply for your J-1 Visa. The document contains the dates of your internship, as well as your sponsorship identification number (DS-2019 Number). If you intend to travel outside the U.S., Odyssey will need to fill out the travel validation box on your DS-2019 form, and issue you a Letter of Good Standing. Please make sure that you have signed and dated the bottom of this document.
  3. J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: This document is issued by the U.S. Embassy in your home country, and will be inserted into your passport. Your passport and J-1 Visa are required for entry into the U.S. Additionally, your J-1 Visa will specify the number of times you are allowed to enter, or reenter, the U.S.
  4. I-94 Arrival Card: You will receive this document during your flight to the U.S. Your I-94 Card is required when applying for your Social Security Number, and you will have to present it if you plan on leaving and reentering the country during your program.
  1. Program Handbook: This should serve as your primary resource during your program. Please be sure to read the handbook thoroughly, and refer back to it often.
  2. Letter to Social Security Officer: This letter explains your J-1 Exchange Visitor status to the Social Security Officer who will process your Social Security application.
  3. Confirmation of Insurance Form + Insurance ID Card: This Odyssey-issued document serves as a confirmation of your health insurance coverage dates. You should not be in the United States outside of these dates because you will not have insurance coverage.
  4. SEVIS Fee Receipt: The receipt confirming that you have paid your SEVIS fee.
  5. DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan: This is the official summary of your training. You should keep a copy with your other important documents in case you need to refer to it. Visit the Applicant Resources section to learn about the DS-7002 in more detail.

Embassy Appointment

US Embassy Interview

You will need to make an appointment for an in-person interview at the American embassy. The US embassy does not accept walk-ins. Please consult the website of the US embassy of your country (http://www.usembassy.gov/).

Note: For most countries, the embassy requires you to fill out the DS-160 before scheduling an interview.

Please see guidelines below:

Online DS-160:
  1. Fill in your DS-160 online, click on: (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv).
  2. Choose the city where you will have your J1 visa appointment. Once you have chosen the city, you can no longer change to a different embassy.
  3. Upload a photo - see U.S. requirements for the format. In case you experience difficulties uploading, try slightly changing brightness or size.
  4. Click on Start Application
Scheduling your appointment:

You may be asked to give the following information:

  1. You name and address
  2. Your place of birth
  3. Your passport number and nationality
  4. Your Email-address
  5. Your DS-2019 Exchange Visitor Program Number: P-4-29241 (Internship) or P-4-29242 (Training)
How to pay for the interview:
  1. Visa fee: Currently US$160; non-refundable; separate from the program fee.
  2. Please refer to the embassy website of your country for information on how to pay: credit card, which credit card, debit card, wire transfer, bank payment etc.
The wait time for scheduling an interview:

Please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/wait-times.html/


*** Update Odyssey with your visa interview date once your visa schedule is finalized.
J-1 Visa Interview with a Consular Officer:

Make sure you have the following documents with you during your visa interview:

  1. DS2019
  2. DS7002p1&2 signed
  3. Signed Training Plan
  4. SEVIS Receipt
  5. School Certificate/Diploma/Transcript (if applicable)
  6. Work Certificates (if applicable)
  7. Completed Visa Forms (please check you US Embassy website for more information and how to pay your visa fee)
  8. DS-160 proof of payment

You must have an in-person interview with a consular officer at the US Embassy in order to receive your visa. Please remember that it is your responsibility to convince the officer that you qualify to receive a J-1 visa. The consular officer will assume that you do not qualify unless you can prove otherwise. Here are some tips for your interview:

  1. Have all of the documents listed above organized and ready to present if requested.
  2. Remember that the goals of the J-1 program are cultural exchange and training and career development. The J-1 program is NOT a work program and not an excuse for you to travel America. Try and frame all responses around your desire to experience American culture and business practices.
  3. Memorize your Training Plan (DS-7002). This means to memorize all of the phases, your supervisors, cultural activities, responsibilities etc. Your training plan is the blueprint for your program and the consular officer will want to see that you understand it.
  4. Below are some questions you may be asked during your interview:
    • Why do you want to go to the US?
    • What are your qualifications?
    • What are you currently doing?
    • Which university are you enrolled at (or, have you graduated from?)?
    • What program are you applying to?
    • When did you apply for your program?
    • How much was your placement fee?
    • Who is going to pay for your expenses? How much do you/they make?
    • Tell me about your housing.
    • What will you be doing in the US?

J-1 interviews are typically very brief, only 2-5 minutes long. Be polite, dress professionally and only tell the truth. The consular officer should inform you the same day whether your visa has been approved or not. Most embassies will not issue your passport with the visa for 2-3 days after the interview.

Pre-Departure Orientation:

All intern and trainee participants are required to complete a pre-departure orientation which reviews important information you will need to know in order to complete your J-1 program successfully. Please take this orientation seriously and pay attention! Many of the points included are crucial to you remaining in good standing during your program as well as your safety and well being.

Please review all points in the orientation below then complete the online quiz. Once you have answered all of the questions correctly you will be asked to confirm your understanding through electronic signature. Odyssey will not allow you to depart your home country or activate your program in SEVIS until you have completed these steps.

Housing

Housing arrangements vary depending on the location and host company. Regardless of whether housing options are provided by a host company or not, Odyssey requires you to have at least temporary housing reserved before you depart your home country.

HOUSING OPTIONS PROVIDED BY THE HOST COMPANY

Some host companies provide intern and trainee housing on location. Please note that you are still required to pay for the housing. Prices vary depending on the host company but they will often be much cheaper than finding a place on your own. Your host company will often send you housing documents to complete and fill out before you arrive so your housing is reserved. If you fail to complete and return these documents then your housing may not be ready for you when arrive! Participants should expect to share a room with another J-1 participant as well as a bathroom.

The housing should be furnished with basic amenities like beds, furniture and appliances. Failure to follow the host company housing rules and regulations will result in you being expelled from exchange visitor housing, at which point you will need to find alternate housing which may be much farther away and more expensive. In general, exchange visitor housing will not allow smoking, pets, parties, candles or open flames, noise during quiet hours or people not on the lease to stay in the apartment.

HOUSING NOT PROVIDED BY THE HOST COMPANY

If housing is not provided by your host company then it is your responsibility to secure housing before you arrive. DO NOT assume that your host company provides you housing unless it is clearly confirmed in writing AND you have completed and returned housing documents provided by your host company before arriving.

The best place to begin searching for housing is to ask Odyssey or your Host Company contact if they have any recommendations. Often we have access to apartments or contacts recommended from past participants which we can share. These options should also be provided in your Arrival Package.

Alternatively, you can also search on housing sites such as Craigslist.com. However, you must be careful when using these sites since they are informal and often do not have any safeguards. If you feel unsure about reserving an apartment, please contact Odyssey and we can assist.

HOUSING COSTS

The cost of housing will vary widely depending on your location, time of year and how many people you share an apartment with. In general, you should expect to pay the expenses listed below for a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people (per person):

  1. Deposit: One month's rent The deposit goes to cover any damages to the apartment during the rental. In general the deposit should be refunded at the end of the lease as long as it is returned in the same condition as it was rented. Some landlords may withhold a certain amount for a cleaning fee regardless of the condition. Be sure to ask beforehand.
  1. Monthly Rent: $450-$600 per person
  2. Utilities: $50 - $60 per person - Utilities include things like water, gas, electricity and trash. Some apartments have utilities included in the rent. Be sure to ask beforehand.
  3. Cable and Internet: Service will typically cost about $50/month.

Please remember that these are just general estimations. If your internship is in a popular tourist destination or if your program is for less than 12-months then this can greatly increase your housing costs. Be sure to do some research into the cost of living in the city where you will be staying to get a better idea of how much it will cost.

BUDGETING

Please make sure you have budgeted a sufficient amount of money to participate in the program. All of Odyssey's internships and traineeships are paid. However, you will need access to at least $1,500 USD upon arriving to cover the costs of establishing yourself before you begin receiving your stipend checks. This money will also be needed in the event that your monthly stipend does not cover all of your expenses.

PROGRAM FEES

These are fees you paid in order to participate in this J-1 exchange program with Odyssey to help to pay for a multitude of services and regulations. Here is a breakdown of where your fees go:

  1. Review of applicant eligibility per Department of State guidelines
  2. Review of all application documents
  1. Confirmation of host company eligibility
  2. Development of the training and internship placement plan (Form DS-7002)
  3. Issuance of form DS-2019 (prerequisite to obtain a J-1 visa)
  4. Medical insurance for the duration of the program
  5. Housing support
  6. Organized cultural activities and events
  7. 24/7 support and access to Odyssey staff
SAMPLE BUDGET

Below is a sample budget for what a J-1 participant can expect to pay in a typical month during the program. Your actual cost of living will depend on many factors including location, length of apartment lease, season and number of people you are living with. This is just to give you an estimate for an "average" program. Please also keep in mind that your first month may cost more than this since there are costs associated with any move and getting set-up.

The below budget is for someone sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people and not owning a car.

One Time Expenses
Category Sub Category Cost
Transportation Roundtrip Airfare $1,200
Transportation Airport to housing $50
Housing Deposit $450
Phone Cell Phone $50
TOTAL $1,750
Monthly Expenses
Category Sub Category Cost
Housing Rent $450
Housing Utilities $50
Housing Cable/Internet $30
Transportation Taxis, public transport $50
Food Groceries $120
Food Restaurants $75
Entertainment Movies, parks, concerts etc $150
Phone Phone plan/phone card $50
Supplies Cleaning, laundry, decorations, kitchen. $50
Miscellaneous Unplanned expenses $100
TOTAL $1,150

INSURANCE INFORMATION

Medical insurance for the duration of your program is provided as part of your program fees. Your proof of insurance will be emailed to you automatically once you provide your arrival information in the United States to Odyssey. Your insurance will begin on the day you arrive in the USA and will end three days after your program end date.

Your insurance provider is Secutive. Odyssey is your program sponsor, not your insurance provider. Below is an outline of your coverage and benefits which can also be found in detail in the insurance pamphlet which was provided to you along with your DS-2019. If you arrive before your program start date or decide to stay for any period of time during your 30-day grace period after your program end date, you will need to purchase additional insurance for this time. Please contact Odyssey for assistance.

Please note: J-1 program participants may be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Category Secutive Coverage Minimum Required Coverage
Coverage per accident/illness $250,000 $100,000
Repatriation Coverage 100% of actual expense $25,000
Medical Evacuation 100% of actual expense $50,000
Deductible (maximum) $50 $500

As you may have heard, health care in the United States can be very expensive if you are not familiar with your insurance plan. To avoid receiving a large medical bill after treatment, please follow the below steps:

  1. Call your insurance company before seeking treatment. Not all doctors or hospitals will accept your particular insurance. It is crucial that you call the number provided on your insurance card to ask for the closest "In Network" doctor or facility that accepts your insurance. If you go to a facility that does not accept your insurance you could be responsible for a medical bill which you cannot afford!
  2. In non-life threatening situations, choose urgent care, walk-in clinics and doctor's offices, NOT hospital emergency rooms (ER).
  3. You should always take your insurance card, photo identification, and DS-2019 form with you to the doctor.
  1. Every time you see a doctor, you should be prepared to pay a deductible. A deductible is a normal fee that all insurance providers charge. The deductible for your plan to see a doctor is $50. If you go to a hospital instead of doctor for treatment, the deductible can be much more. Therefore, whenever possible, call your insurance and ask for the closest "In Network" doctor.
  2. If you receive medical care that you think your insurance should pay for, you MUST contact your insurance provider either before or within 48 hours of receiving care. If you do not, you will need to pay all the bills upfront yourself then try to have the insurance company reimburse you for the care you received. This can be a long and difficult process and the claims are sometimes not reimbursed, leaving you to pay for everything. Therefore, it is important to contact your insurance provider early and often if you are going to receive medical care!
IN-NETWORK VS. OUT OF NETWORK

In-Network:This group is always the best option. In-Network medical providers will bill the insurance company directly, so you will only pay the co-pay amount. The In-Network medical providers can be found on the insurance company's website or by calling the insurance company directly. The insurance contact information can be found on your insurance card.

Out of Network: The out of network providers will not bill the insurance company directly. Therefore, you will need to pay for your entire visit upfront (out of your pocket) at the time of service. This payment may be reimbursed to you by the insurance company once you file a claim. You must submit a Claim Form to the insurance company for Out of Network medical providers. With the Claim Form you are required to submit the itemized bill, any additional receipts and medical records from your visit.

Pre-Departure Checklist

Your visa has been approved and you are ready to leave for America! Before you get on the plane, please make sure you have researched and accounted for the following:

  1. Send arrival information to Odyssey including date, time, airport and flight number.
  2. The climate in your destination. Weather can vary dramatically depending on your location and season. Be sure to research whether you should be packing winter coats or swimming suits, or both!
  3. Confirmed housing after arrival. Some host companies provide housing but some do not. Unless you were explicitly informed that housing is provided then you should assume it is not provided and you will need to reserve something on your own. Please refer to the Housing section click here.
  4. Confirmed how you will get from the airport to your housing.
  5. Confirmed that you have access to at least $1,500 USD immediately after arriving to cover costs of getting settled before your first stipend check arrives.
  6. All of your important documents are packed, including your passport, DS-2019, DS-7002 Training Plan, Sponsor Letter, Insurance Card, Odyssey Handbook and all other documents which were mailed to you. Be sure to make photocopies of everything.
  1. International driver's license (if available). Even if you don't intend to drive, it is good to have alternate sources of identification.
  2. Prescription medications AND the original prescription from your doctor, translated to English if necessary. Some medicines which may be sold over the counter in your home country may be illegal without prescription in the United States.
  3. The city where you will be living. It will be useful to familiarize yourself with your new host city before you arrive through maps and research. Look up important locations like banks, groceries, your host company, and the social security office so it is more familiar when you arrive.
  4. And of course, all personal items you will need to be comfortable for the duration of your stay.

your arrival

Arrival in the United States

Immigration and Customs

When you enter the U.S., you will be seen by a U.S. Customs Official. This person is responsible for ensuring that you are authorized to enter the country. Here are the steps you can expect to follow upon arrival:

  1. Present the U.S. Customs Official with your travel documents (Passport, J-1 Visa, DS-2019 Form, and the I-94 card you received on the plane). The U.S. Customs Official will take your I-94 card and stamp it. One part of your I-94 card will be stapled to your passport and the other part will be kept by Immigration as a record of your arrival. Make sure you get part of the I-94 back, and if it is not stapled to your passport, make sure that you attach it as soon as possible.
  1. The Customs Official may ask you some general questions about your visit, the purpose and duration of your program, and where you will stay during your program. Answer clearly and respectfully, they are routine questions.
  2. The Customs Official will ask you to submit digital finger scans and a digital photograph (part of the US-VISIT program, required for most visa holders).
  3. You will then go through a baggage checkpoint. You may be asked to open your luggage and allow another U.S. Customs Official to examine your belongings. The purpose of this search is to ensure that you have not brought any restricted items with you into the U.S.
  4. Finally, you will present the Customs declaration form that you received on the plane (form#6059B).

Activate Your Program

As soon as you arrive safely at your housing and after the start date listed on your DS-2019, you MUST activate your J-1 program on the Odyssey website. Once you activate your account, Odyssey staff will activate your program in SEVIS, which is the online government database that monitors all exchange visitors in the United States. Failure to activate your program after your arrival will automatically cancel your program and you will not be allowed to continue! Therefore, as soon as you have arrived safely at your housing, please log into your Odyssey participant portal and complete your check in. You can find a link to the program activation page here.

Please be aware of the following:

  1. You cannot register before you arrive in the U.S. or before the start date on your DS-2019 form.
  2. If you are staying in a hotel or apartment, you MUST include a room or apartment number.
  1. Your address cannot be the same as your host company address (unless you are actually living in the same building).
  2. SEVIS will not accept P.O. (Postal Office) boxes.
  3. If you move, you must register again with your new address. If you do not provide this information correctly, your SEVIS registration will be delayed. You cannot apply for a Social Security Card until you are correctly registered with SEVIS (see below section titled "").

REMEMBER: Any time you change your housing address, contact information or any aspect of your training (host company, supervisor, role/position) you must update your information in by logging into your Odyssey participant portal and making the changes. Failure to update changes within 10 days may result in the cancellation of your program.

Checking-In With Odyssey (previously Registering With SEVIS)

As soon as you arrive in the United States you will receive an email from Odyssey with instructions and a link for completing your Check-In. If you do not receive the email, please contact Odyssey directly at info@odcinternational.com. Although you may be very excited and distracted with all of the new experiences upon arriving, completing your Arrival Check-In is very important. Please complete the check-in as soon as you receive the link from Odyssey in your email. This allows us to activate your program in SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) and informs the Department of State and Social Security Administration of your arrival. Failure to report your address within 3 days of your DS-2019 start date will have serious consequences for your visa. You will be reported as "out of status" to the Department of State and may face a negative end to your program and/or an inability to obtain visas to the U.S. in the future. If you change your residence you are required to update Odyssey with your new address within 10 days.

Please be aware of the following

  1. You cannot register before you arrive in the U.S. or before the start date on your DS-2019 form.
  2. If you are staying in a hotel or apartment, you MUST include a room or apartment number.
  3. Your address cannot be the same as your host company address (unless you are actually living in the same building).
  4. We will not accept P.O. (Postal Office) boxes.
  5. If you move, you must inform Odyssey of your new address, otherwise you will be out of compliance with the rules of the program.

REMEMBER: Any time you change your housing address, contact information or any aspect of your training (host company, supervisor, role/position) you must update your information in by informing your contact at Odyssey. Failure to update changes within 10 days may result in the cancellation of your program.

during your program

Monthly Check-In

In order for Odyssey to ensure your safety and well being while in the United States and to ensure J-1 program rules, regulations and goals are being achieved, you are required to check-in with Odyssey every month through your online portal. You will receive a reminder in your email inbox every month to remind you when it is time to check in. Please be sure to log into your participant portal as soon as you receive a reminder and complete the check-in. It is our responsibility to monitor your progress while in the United States and it is your responsibility to maintain contact with us.

Every monthly check-in will be quick and request the same information, including a short survey asking you questions about how your program is going thus far, the positives, negatives and any feedback you would like to communicate. Your feedback will help us to improve your program as well as the programs of all current and future participants.

Evaluations

Both you and your host company are required to complete performance evaluations during your program. All participants need to complete a mid-point and final evaluation, regardless of the program length. These evaluations are designed to be a catalyst for you and your supervisor to begin a conversation about your performance, what you are excelling at and what you can improve on to assist you in improving your skills.

You will also be required to upload pictures of you participating in cultural activities during your midpoint and final evaluations. These pictures can be uploaded via your participant portal at any time throughout your program, but must be uploaded during your evaluations at the minimum.

You and your supervisor will receive reminders when it is time to complete your evaluations.

Cultural Activities

The primary purpose of the J-1 program is to allow students and young professionals from other countries to come to the United States, experience American culture, share their culture with Americans and eventually return home to share their experiences with friends and family. This is called person-to-person diplomacy and it is the primary reason the J-1 program exists.

During your time in the United States, you will have many opportunities to participate in cultural activities. In fact, it is a program requirement to send Odyssey proof of cultural activities you have participated in during your mid point and final evaluations. Your training plan contains suggestions for cultural activities for every phase that are specific to your location and host company. Please take full advantage of these activities and ask your HR department for more suggestions. Odyssey will also be sending ideas and organizing cultural events during your program which we encourage you to take advantage of.

A cultural activity can be almost anything that is not part of your training. Some suggestions are:

  1. Visiting parks, museums, historical landmarks, sites of interest. Basically anywhere not in your host company or in your housing is likely a cultural experience that you can only have while in the United States!
  2. Eating at an American restaurant.
  3. Attending events such as concerts, rodeos, holiday celebrations, openings, public celebrations etc.
  4. Traveling or weekend trips.
  5. Events hosted by your host company such as parties, holiday events, classes, weekend getaways.
  6. Enrolling in classes
  7. Playing American sports.

In addition to all the resources already available, we also recommend you check out these websites for more inspiration:

  1. If you need an excuse to explore, try Geocaching http://www.geocaching.com/
  2. For events happening in your state, Check out http://www.thingstodo.com/
  3. For sports-lovers: http://www.active.com/
  4. 50 great things to do while in the USA: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/articles/50-great-things-to-do-in-america/
  5. Free things: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/free-things-america
  6. For religious activities: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/10/travel/beautifulreligious-sites-us/index.html
  7. Find fun activities at a discount: http://www.groupon.com/local/things-to-do
  8. Volunteer opportunities: http://www.voa.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer/Volunteer_Locally
  9. Arts & Crafts: Take a class at Michaels Store http://www.michaels.com/Exciting-Classes/classes,default,pg.html

Ultimately it is up to you get out and experience this amazing country you traveled so far to see! Have fun, be safe and remember to take lots of pictures!

Culture Shock

There is a chance that after arriving in the United States, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the new languages, cultures and customs you come into contact with. This feeling may grow into more severe feelings of panic, depression, dread or homesickness. These feelings are often referred to as "culture shock" and are a very common experience for any international traveler regardless of their origin or destination.

Culture shock can be difficult but ultimately makes your experience even more rewarding. You would not have embarked on such a journey if you were not open, adventurous and ready to experience something completely new!

Culture shock is temporary and should pass depending on how quickly you can feel comfortable in your new surroundings. Below are some tips to help:

  1. Set realistic expectations for your J-1 experience: Participants may become disappointed when they first arrive if the location, host company or fellow interns do not fit the image of what they were expecting their experience to be. The best advice we can give is to not set many expectations and be as open as possible to whatever your experience has to offer. There will always be some positive and some negative aspects and it will be up to you to make the best of it.
  1. Get involved as much as possible in company activities and attend social activities, clubs, etc.
  2. Find something from home that is comforting: a book in your own language, a favorite food, music from home, etc.
  3. Seek out friends when you are lonely. Odyssey can connect you with other interns at your host company or in the area.
  4. Get outside and explore, even if no one is available to go with you. Go for a hike, visit downtown, watch a game in a restaurant or bar. Leaving your apartment and getting to know your environment will help you feel more comfortable with your surroundings.

Culture shock is a very natural and common emotion and can affect people differently. However, if you feel severely depressed, lonely or homesick for an extended period of time, please call Odyssey to see how we can help.

Your Host Company

Your host company is here to provide you with a safe, educational and culturally immersive environment. At the same time, they are also running a business and have rights afforded to them through the J1 program, same as you. Let's review some important points about training and interacting with your host company.

EXCHANGE VISITOR CONDUCT

Before you get to know your host companies and supervisors, you should assume that formal is better. You will hopefully develop a friendship or more relaxed relationship with your managers as your program progresses. However, until you are able to gauge how to act when reporting to your host company, we advise you:

  1. Arrive to work on time or even better, 10 minutes early
  2. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible if you will be late or absent from work
  3. Dress professionally or wear company uniforms if provided
  1. Follow company policies
  2. Speak English at all times
  3. Maintain your personal hygiene
  4. Be polite and considerate
  5. Smile! A lot!

Please remember that your J1 visa status is tied to your internship. If you fail to follow company policies, your host company may terminate (fire) you. In general you will be given three warnings before a termination takes place but this can vary depending on the severity of your infraction. Please be sure to contact Odyssey immediately if you feel you are in danger of being terminated or have been terminated.

DRUG TESTS

Some host companies do require all interns and trainees to complete mandatory drug tests upon arrival. Regardless of the state you are living in, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and testing positive for marijuana will result in your program being terminated. Please note that marijuana can stay in your system for up to 30 days.

Also, certain types of prescription drugs can cause you to fail a test, especially opioids. If you are taking prescription medication, be sure to bring a copy of the prescription translated to English as necessary.

If you fail a drug test you will be terminated from your host company. Depending on the situation, you may be required to return home immediately. Several participants end up in this situation every year, don't be one of them!

PROBLEMS WITH YOUR HOST COMPANY

Most issues arising at the training site can be resolved by your immediate supervisor. If your immediate supervisor is not available or you do not feel comfortable speaking with them, you can also go to the HR department of your host company. It is their full time job to ensure trainees and interns alike are being treated fairly. They can also answer any questions about your stipend, hours and scheduling.

If after speaking with your supervisor and/or the HR department your issue is still not resolved, please contact Odyssey. We can ensure that your host company is following all the rules and regulations of the J-1 program.

Please note that you cannot change host companies simply because you are having issues or the location or host company is not what you were expecting. Learning to adapt is part of the program experience and it is in your best interest to work through any issues you encounter and enjoy your training. Again, Odyssey is available to ensure your rights as a J-1 intern/trainee are honored. However, it is your responsibility to try and make the best of your experience. Odyssey only allows a change of host company when a participant's safety or well being is in jeopardy or if the host company is unable to follow the rules and regulations of the J-1 program.

Your Rights

YOUR RIGHTS AS AN EXCHANGE VISITOR

As an exchange visitor in the U.S., you have the right to:

  1. Be treated and paid fairly
  2. Not be held in a job against your will
  3. Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession
  4. Report abuse without retaliation
  5. Request help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups and other groups
  6. Seek justice in U.S. courts.

A copy of the Wilberforce Pamphlet for Temporary Workers will be sent to you in your DS-2019 package from Odyssey.

For more information on your rights visit: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/pamphlet/pamphlet_4578.html

If you are mistreated or your rights are violated, call these toll-free numbers:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center's 24 Hour Toll-Free Hotline +1-888-373-7888

Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm Eastern Time) +1-888-428-7581

Department of State J-1 Visa Hotline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) +1-866-283-9090

If you are in immediate physical danger, Call 911.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual manner including the following:

  1. Sexual innuendoes, jokes, or comments
  2. Repeatedly asking for a date after the person has expressed disinterest
  3. Unwelcome touching of a person's body, hair or clothing
  1. Visual pictures or images degrading someone based on their sex
  2. Letters, notes, telephone calls, or material of a sexual nature

If you feel uncomfortable in your work environment for any reason, please inform your immediate supervisor or Odyssey.

SECOND JOBS

You may not hold a second job during your J-1 intern or trainee program. You may only participate in activities and for the host company listed on your DS-7002 Training Plan.

PROHIBITED TASKS

For the purposes of the J-1 Exchange Program according to 22 CFR 514.22(c)(1), the below tasks are considered "unskilled". J-1 Interns and Trainees are not allowed to engage in the following:

  1. Assemblers
  2. Attendants, Parking Lot
  3. Attendants (Service Workers such as Personal Services Attendants, Amusement and Recreation Service Attendants)
  4. Automobile Service Station Attendants
  5. Bartenders
  6. Bookkeepers
  7. Caretakers
  8. Cashiers
  9. Charworkers and Cleaners
  10. Chauffeurs and Taxicab Drivers
  11. Cleaners, Hotel and Motel
  12. Clerks, General
  13. Clerks, Hotel
  14. Clerks and Checkers, Grocery Stores
  15. Clerk Typist
  16. Cooks, Short Order
  17. Counter and Fountain Workers
  18. Dining Room Attendants
  19. Electric Truck Operators
  20. Elevator Operators
  21. Floorworkers
  22. Groundskeepers
  23. Guards
  24. Helpers, any industry
  25. Hotel Cleaners
  26. Household Domestic Service Workers
  1. Housekeepers
  2. Janitors
  3. Key Punch Operators
  4. Kitchen Workers
  5. Laborers, Common
  6. Laborers, Farm
  7. Laborers, Mine
  8. Loopers and Toppers
  9. Material Handlers
  10. Nurses' Aides and Orderlies
  11. Packers, Markers, Bottlers and Related
  12. Porters
  13. Receptionists
  14. Sailors and Deck Hands
  15. Sales Clerks, General
  16. Sewing Machine Operators and Handstitchers
  17. Stock Room and Warehouse Workers
  18. Streetcar and Bus Conductors
  19. Telephone Operators
  20. Truck Drivers and Tractor Drivers
  21. Typist, Lesser Skilled
  22. Ushers, Recreation and Amusement
  23. Yard Workers

If your host company has asked to your complete any of these tasks, or if you feel that what you are being asked to do is prohibited or makes you feel uncomfortable, please contact ODYSSEY.

Stipends

STIPEND

You should receive a guaranteed stipend at the rate listed on your DS-7002 Training Plan. All interns and trainees should receive at least 32 hours per week at the rate listed. Most companies issue stipend check bi-weekly (every two weeks). You may have left the country by the time your final stipend check is issued. In this case, it is best to have your host company deposit your check into your bank account and you can withdraw it using your Debit/ATM card from any ATM in the world.

MONEY ON HAND

It can sometimes take several weeks after arrival before you receive your first stipend check, either because of delays in receiving your social security number or because you started at the beginning of a pay cycle. For this reason, we require all participants to have access to at least $1,500 to help cover the costs of living which can include housing, transportation, food, utilities etc. We also advise all participants have access to at least one credit card and one debit card.

OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT

We highly recommend you open a bank account during your stay. It makes it easier for your host company to pay you and it is safer than keeping large amounts of cash on hand. Recommended banks are included in your arrival package, or you can simply ask other employees or interns at your training site what bank they recommend.

Many banks offer ATM/debit cards that can be used like checks or cash at most stores and restaurants. Many of these cards are sponsored by VISA or MasterCard and can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can also use the card for cash withdrawals from cash machines 24 hours a day. This can be convenient, especially when you are traveling. However, it is important to remember that this is not a credit card. The money will be withdrawn directly from your checking account when you use the ATM card. Often there will be service charges for cash machine withdrawals. Keep careful records of how much you have spent. Remember to deduct any service charges from your records as well.

Taxes

Your host company is required by law to withhold income tax from your stipend and pay it directly to the government. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of your stipend will be withheld for federal income tax. Depending on regional laws, state and local income taxes may also be withheld from your stipend check. State and local income taxes can take out another 5 to 8 percent of your total stipend.

J-1 Students MUST pay U.S. income tax. Please look carefully at your first stipend check to ensure that these taxes are being correctly withheld. If you or your host company has questions regarding your tax status, they can contact ODYSSEY.

Some participants are surprised at the amount of taxes they need to pay. When calculating your net monthly resources from your stipend, assume 20% of the total with be withheld for taxes and take this into account when developing a budget.

Luckily, you do not need to pay all the same taxes as an American citizen:

Taxes You Have to Pay:
  1. Federal income taxes
  2. State income taxes
  3. City income taxes
I-9 - Employment Eligibility Verification Form

Before you can begin training and receiving a stipend check, you must complete an I-9. This will be provided to you by your host company. When you complete the I-9 you will need to show your DS-2019 and your passport with your J-1 Visa. Be sure to check the box "an alien authorized to work until" and enter the program end date listed on your DS-2019. Use your I-94 number on the line requesting the Alien # or Admission #.

SALES TAX

Some states impose a sales tax on most goods and services you purchase. Therefore, the price listed on a menu or at a clothing store may not be the actual price you pay. Sales taxes can range from 5-11% of the total price depending on the state.

Taxes You Do Not Have to Pay:
  1. Social Security & Medicare Tax (FICA)
  2. Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

If any of these seem to be deducted from your stipend check, please speak with your HR department.

W-4 - Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate Form

Host companies should also ask you to complete a W-4 form when you begin training which will be used to determine how much tax will be withheld from your stipend check. Here are some helpful tips for filling out the W-4 form:

  1. On line 3, check only "single" marital status (regardless of marital status)
  2. On line 5, claim only one withholding allowance
  3. On line 6, write "Non-Resident Alien" or "NRA" above the dotted line
  4. On line 7, do NOT claim "Exempt" withholding status

Staying Safe

EMERGENCIES

If you are ever the victim of a crime, feel your immediate safety is in danger, there is a fire or you have been injured and need assistance, either you or someone you are with should call 911. This is the emergency number in the United States and works everywhere there is phone service. It will connect you to an emergency dispatcher who can send help immediately.

This is the emergency number in the United States and works everywhere there is phone service. It will connect you to an emergency dispatcher who can send help immediately.

URGENT BUT NOT EMERGENCIES

There may be situations where you need assistance but do not think it is an emergency. In this case, please contact ODYSSEY offices or the ODYSSEY emergency hotline for assistance. These situations may include:

  1. If you have been arrested
  1. If you feel ill and don't know whether to call an ambulance
  2. If you feel lonely or depressed
  3. If you have been fired from your job
  4. If you have been evicted from your housing
  5. Issues with your immigration documents
For general questions and inquiries, please contact:
  • Phone: +1-310-421-0107
  • Email: info@odcinternational.com
  • Address:

    Odyssey International Exchange
    6300 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 610
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    USA

  • This will allow you to contact ODYSSEY staff during regular office hours (8:30AM - 5:30PM PST Monday - Friday)
For 24 Hour Urgent Support:

Call +1-310-421-0107 then press option '0'

This will connect you with an ODYSSEY representative regardless of time of day. Please only use this number in urgent situations regarding your J1 program outside of normal ODYSSEY office hours. Do NOT use this number for emergency medical or law-enforcement situations (see below).

You may also contact the US Department of State Emergency Hotline: +1-866-283-9090

If you are in immediate danger or have been injured and need assistance, please dial 911. This will connect you with emergency medical or law enforcement services.

Other Resources:
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 1-800-375-5283 www.uscis.gov
  • United States Department of State Help Line 1-866-283-9090 jvisas@state.gov
  • Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs 1-202-401-9810 exchanges.state.gov
  • Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213 www.ssa.gov
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 1-800-829-1040
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS

Being in a new country can be exciting and perhaps make you want to explore and take more risks than you normally would. While we encourage you to explore and experience as much as possible, we also urge you to use common sense. America has good and bad people, just like anywhere else in the world, who may try to take advantage of you if they see an opportunity. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, you should remove yourself from that situation as fast as possible. Here are some other tips:

  1. Try and go out with a friend or colleague, especially to places you are unfamiliar with.
  2. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable with someone or a situation, try and get to a more public place with more people around.
  3. Do not carry large amounts of cash and do not show money in public if you are taking out a wallet or purse.
  4. If you need to withdraw money from an ATM, try to do it during the day in a busy area.
  1. Always lock your door when leaving your apartment or going to sleep.
  2. Don't fall asleep in public areas such as buses, parks or beaches.
  3. Try and walk in well-lit areas at night and with other people whenever possible.

If someone tries to rob you, do not resist. Give them what they want and do not say anything. It is better to give up your wallet or your purse than risk something much worse happening. If possible, try and remember what the person looks like and what they are wearing, then immediately call 911 and let them know what happened. Please also contact ODYSSEY as soon as possible so we can assist.

BICYCLES

Bicycling can be a great way to get around and see a city. However, they have several risks which you need to be aware of and account for:

  1. Always wear a helmet: Some cities require bikers to wear a helmet. Regardless of the laws, you should always wear a helmet.
  2. Use bike lanes: Many cities now have designated lanes for bikes (on the right). However, cars still enter these lanes when making turns so you must still be aware of your surroundings.
  1. Be aware of your surroundings: There will be cars, pedestrians and other bikers you need maneuver around. Enjoy your surroundings but also keep an eye on the road.
  2. Lock your bike: Bikes are very easy to steal and are a common target for thieves. Remember to lock your bike to a pole or bike lock even when leaving it at your apartment.
CARS

If you decide to buy or rent a car (details in the FAQ section), you must be comfortable, confident and cautious every time you enter a car.

  1. Always wear a seatbelt: It is smart and it is the law. Failure to wear a seatbelt will result in a fine.
  2. Know the rules of the road: You need a valid driver's license in order to drive. Even so, laws and rules are likely different from your home country. Be sure you know how to conduct yourself while on the road.
  1. Never drink and drive: Law enforcement takes drunk driving very seriously. If you are caught drunk driving you will be arrested and need to pay large fines. It is also reckless and dangerous for you, your passengers and everyone else on the road. Don't do it!
  2. Be alert: Do not get distracted by other people, loud music, food or sightseeing. If you are tired you should pull over or switch with another driver. Unexpected surprises will happen on the road, whether it is another driver, pot hole or deer running across the road, and you need to be ready to react.
SWIMMING

Swimming is available in most cities at public pools, lakes, rivers, oceans and water parks. Before you go swimming, please consider the following:

  1. Learn to swim! Most cities have recreation departments where you can learn to swim for free or a small fee. Your host company may also have swim classes or lifeguard training available.
  2. If you do not feel comfortable swimming but would still like to go in the water, simply wear a life vest.
  3. Watch out for the people you are with. Always try and go into the water with someone else in case one of you needs help. If you are with people who are swimming, keep an eye on them while they are in the water.
  1. Only swim in designated areas.
  2. When swimming in the ocean, do not swim too far from shore. Currents and rip tides can be very strong not far from shore and can quickly pull even strong swimmers out to sea. If you find you are being pulled by a current, do not swim against it. Focus on floating and begin calling for help.
  3. Never swim alone or in the dark.
  4. Never swim after drinking alcohol.
SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING

Skiing results in a high number of injuries for J-1 participants every year. While the experience can be thrilling, you must take the necessary safety precautions to avoid injuries.

  1. Learn to ski: You should enroll in a ski class or have an experienced friend teach you the basics of skiing before you get on a lift. All ski resorts will have classes for all experience levels you can sign up for. If you are completing an internship at a winter resort, most resorts will offer free ski passes and free ski lessons to their interns. Please take advantage!
  2. Wear a helmet: While it is usually not required, you should wear a helmet for the same reasons you wear one when riding a bike or motorcycle.
  1. Stay in your comfort zone: Do not try and take on bigger hills than you feel comfortable with. If you are with people who are going down hills that are too large for you, simply say that you are going to keep practicing on other hills and you will meet them later.
  2. Dress Appropriately: Check the weather before you hit the slopes. Weather in the mountains can change drastically and you want to be sure you have the proper gear to stay warm and comfortable.
  3. Wear sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, it is very easy to get sunburned because the sun reflects off of the white snow. Wear at least SPF 50.
  4. Drink a lot of water: Once you begin moving and working in all of your heavy winter clothes, you will begin to sweat! Be sure to drink lots of fluids and eat enough food so you do not get exhausted.

Leaving the United States During Your Program

Please note:You cannot leave the United States during your program without first informing Odyssey! This is especially true if you plan on re-entering the United States to continue your program.

Exiting the United States during your program should only be considered for personal or emergency reasons, not for pleasure travel even if it is approved by your host company. You should save personal travel for the one month grace period at the end of your program.

If you do need to leave the country for any reason, please follow the below steps:

  1. You must send the following documents to Odyssey. We strongly recommend when mailing your documents that you request a tracking number and delivery confirmation. For that purpose, we advise using FedEx or UPS service to mail your documents to Odyssey.
  2. Your original DS-2019 to be authorized for international travel.
  3. Host Company Letter (stating that they allowed you to take the vacation).
  4. Flight Details
  5. A PRE-PAID, SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE, so we can return your documents to you. It is highly recommended that you use Fedex or UPS for this return shipping. If the envelope is not pre-paid and does not contain your address then we cannot return your documents to you.
  1. A short LETTER summarizing where you will be travelling, why you are going and the dates that you will be out of the country.

The mailing address for Odyssey is:

Odyssey International Exchange
6300 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 610
Los Angeles, CA 90048
USA

You should mail these materials to Odyssey 3 to 4 weeks before you plan to travel so there is enough time to complete the process and return your DS-2019 to you. Please remember that you will not be permitted to re-enter the United States if you do not have the DS-2019 form authorized for international travel by Odyssey.

Odyssey will need to confirm your departure with your host company before we can validate any travel requests. You must have a multiple entry visa in order to leave the USA and re-enter on the same visa. You cannot re-enter the USA after the end of your program as listed on your DS-2019. This includes during your 30-day grace period and for travel to Canada and Mexico.

AFTER YOUR PROGRAM

Grace/Travel period

All J-1 participants are allowed to stay in the United States for up to 30 days after the end date listed on their DS-2019. Now is the time to do any traveling you have planned! During this time you may no longer train, work or receive money from an American business, but you may travel anywhere within the United States. If you leave the country, including Mexico or Canada, you will not be able to re-enter. Please be mindful of the date you must leave the country to avoid any problems at immigration or with future visa applications. You do not need any additional documents or verification in order to use your 30 day grace period. However, you must update Odyssey with the date you intend to depart the country.

IMPORTANT: Please note that you will NOT have medical insurance during this time. You should contact Odyssey and arrange to extend your coverage for one additional month if you plan on staying in the United States during your 30 day grace period.

final evaluation

You are required to complete a final evaluation at the end of your training program similar to the mid-point evaluation you completed half way through your program. If you have not already completed this, please do so now.

An email should have been sent to your email address, or you can contact ODYSSEY to send it again.

final stipend payment

Be sure to make arrangements with your host company to receive your final stipend payment since it may be issued after you have left the country. The easiest way is usually to have it deposited into your bank account so you can withdraw it from any ATM at a later date.

Be sure to leave your home address with the HR department at your host company so they can mail you your W-2 form at the end of the year. You will need this in order to file for a tax refund (Page : www.irs.gov).

departing the USA

ODYSSEY must receive your departure information (Departure date, time, airport and flight number) in order to close your program in good standing.

The J-1 visa is not intended to be a long term visa and is only valid for the dates stated on your DS-2019. Overstaying your visa could have negative consequences for future visa applications. If you would like to apply for another type of visa you must first return to your home country and begin the process there. ODYSSEY does not support change of visa statuses while in the United States.

You do not need any special documents in order to leave the country. Simply present your passport with your J-1 visa and as long as you are departing within the allowed period of time (30 days after the end date listed on your DS-2019), then you should not have any issues.

tax refunds

Some of the taxes you pay during your J-1 program can be refunded to you after you leave the country provided you file the correct forms. The deadline for declaring all taxes paid in the year you worked is April 15 of the following year. If you do not file your tax declaration, you will not receive a tax refund and you could also have problems on future trips to the United States.

Your host company is required to provide you with a document by January 31st of every year which outlines the total amount of money you earned and the total amount of taxes you paid for the previous year. This is called the W-2 form and you will use this to file for your tax return. Host companies will often mail your W-2 to your home address in your home country so be sure to contact the HR department and make sure they have your address on file. ODYSSEY cannot provide or relay W-2 forms. Your host company must send them directly to you.

Our partner, Taxback (Taxback.com), specializes in providing U.S. tax refunds for J-1 visa holders. It's free to find out what you are owed and taxback operates on a no refund - no fee basis - a 10% fee will apply only if you do receive a refund. Their free tax refund calculator will give you an instant refund calculation so you can see how much you're owed. The Taxback.com service is simple to use and custom-built for students like you:

  1. Register for a free tax refund estimation at Taxback.com
  2. Fill out a US tax pack
  3. Get your U.S. tax refund paid into your bank account
  4. Spend it!

alumni network

Be sure to keep in touch with ODYSSEY and all of the friends and colleagues you have made during your time in the United States! Many of the people you have met along the way could turn into lifelong friends, contacts or even business partners. Be sure to enroll yourself into the ODYSSEY Alumni Network near the end of your program or as soon as you return home to keep in touch.